The Human Voice Voice
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Prepared for: Alter Bukiet
Transcribed by: Transcription for Everyone
Number of Inaudibles: 2
(START RECORDING – 00:00:00)
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: All right. Good morning everybody.
Audience Member: Good morning.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: Just on the calendar note, next week is going to be the last class before Purim, because the actual week, the Sunday before Purim proper, which is two weeks from today, I’m going to be in New York for my daughter’s wedding and the sheva brachot after the wedding. I won’t be here that Saturday, I won’t be here that Sunday, so we won’t have a class on that Sunday, two weeks from today.
Therefore, next week, I’m just giving you a heads-up, there’s going to be a beautiful class and it’s going to be, like, around holiday. It’s not going to be study, study. It’s going to be around stories, stories that the Rebbe told on the festival of Purim and how the Rebbe tied beautiful Chassidic stories into the festival of Purim, which is an interesting take. It’s going to be on storyline. A little lighter, next week, but I think, in many ways, a lot deeper, because in those beautiful stories that’s told on Purim, speaks volumes to how the Rebbe was celebrating Purim and what messages he wanted to get across in those moments of Purim through a story.
We’ll spend time next week with three, four stories, depending on how much time the class allows me to tell you different stories, and with the historical background to the story itself.
Let’s go to this week’s class. This week’s class I’m going back to the inauguration gathering when the Rebbe assumed leadership in 1951, the 10th day of Shevat. I’ve said this piece of what the Rebbe said at that inauguration address. The Rebbe said that in America there’s a custom to make a statement. Let me make a statement of what my leadership is about.
The Rebbe went in to say that there are three links that link together the whole story of Jewish life. The three links are there’s the link of God, there’s the link of Torah, and then there’s the link of the Jewish People. The Rebbe said like this, if a person says I’m assuming the link of Torah, but I don’t have a good relationship with the other two links, it reflects that the link of Torah is incomplete as well.
If a person says, I’m consumed with the link of God and I don’t have the other two links, then it shows that even in the link with God it’s question.
But if a person stands up and says that I have a relationship with another Jew, but I’m struggling with my relationship with God and I’m struggling with my relationship with the Torah, don’t let go! One day he’ll come around, but that link should be kept in place.
The Rebbe separates and makes a statement about the uniqueness of a link of another Jew with each other, although there is an incompleteness in his understanding of his relationship with God and his understanding of the relationship with the Torah. He’s honest. He says I don’t have that great of a relationship, but I’m willing to say to you that I understand or I feel for another Jew, that human relationship. And he has no godly words for it or he has no scriptural words for it, because godly words and scriptural words, he says, I’m lacking. The Rebbe says I want you to hold onto that and the Rebbe said that’s my statement to the world. It’s an amazing statement.
We have worked this statement over the course of time. We have worked this statement pretty, pretty strong. I want to do it again.
I want to come at it with a beautiful Talmud. I’m telling you in advance a couple of things. Number 1, that my introduction to this Talmud — for the sake of honesty and for the sake of transparency, I’m a big fan of Rabbi J. B. Soloveitchik of blessed memory, and if you go on Yeshiva University website, they have links of his audio, of his tapes of his classes he gave in the 70’s and 80’s. They are perfecting it on the technology that it’s clearer and you could hear it better. There’s a tape of a lecture he gave in 1973 that has been worked on and actually produced in one of the books that was coming out, a book called Reflections, and he was the one who opened my eyes to this Talmud.
I’ve worked it differently a little bit. What I want — it’s based on the Rebbe’s inaugural statement, but I just want to be honest that I’ve seen that Talmud through listening to a lecture of his, which opened me up to look at that Talmud.
I want to introduce it. Usually I do it with a story of the Rebbe. I’m not doing it with a story of the Rebbe today. I’m doing it with a contrast of two stories. Even more than two stories, of the difference of an approach to another Jew through Lithuanian halachic Talmudic analysis or versus Chassidic masters. Then I’m going to come back to the Rebbe at the end of the class.
I’ve picked on a story that just came out on a website in Israel. Now, again, God forbid, there’s no attempt on my part to speak bad about anybody and that’s not what I’m doing here. The story I’m about to tell you is a story that they printed. I just want you to understand the contrast of opinions about Jews.
If you look at my Page 1, right on top of the page, there’s a picture. Let me tell you who’s in the picture. There was a month ago, over the holiday weekend — actually, January time, two months ago, American businessmen flew to Israel and took their vacation in Israel.
A group of them sat to learn. They flew to Israel. There was an evening where rabbis spoke to them and praised them for what they did.
In the picture, what you’re looking at, is two brothers-in-law. One’s standing and holding a mike, his name is Yitzchok Zilberstein, he’s a head of a yeshivah in Jerusalem. The next one, the one sitting right next to him, bent in, his name is Rav Chaim Kanievsky. Known as the Steipler, his father, was Yaakov Kanievsky. He wrote extensively on Maimonides, called Kehilos Yaakov. Today, he is considered — Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the man sitting, is considered one of the great leading authorities in the Talmud, right-wing Orthodox world.
They were both — the man standing, Rabbi Zilberstein, and the man sitting, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, they were both sons-in-law of a man by the name of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. He was known as Rabbi Elyashiv. He passed away in the year 2012. He passed away at the age of 102. He was born in 1910. He was one of the leading authorities in the Orthodox world. His prime years, when he led the Orthodox world, were the 80’s and 90’s. For twenty years, he was their halachic authoritative voice.
His younger son-in-law is the man at the mike. The man at the mike, Rabbi Zilberstein, was born in 1934. His older son-in-law, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the one sitting, was born in 1928. This younger son-in-law was the mouthpiece of Rabbi Elyashiv for years. He would be present, be the one that would interpret the answers that he gave, would help Rabbi Elyashiv speak his opinions. He was like the secretary, his religious secretary.
He stood up at this convention two weeks ago and told this story. Again, I say this as a — I don’t mean to speak bad, belittle anybody. I’m just telling stories for you to understand the difference of authoritative opinions.
He stood up and — the story goes as follows. He says, ten years ago, before my father-in-law passed away, when my father-in-law was weak, I would ask all my halachic questions of my older brother-in-law, the one sitting at the table, Rav Chaim Kanievsky.
A question came to me. An Orthodox Jew in Israel leases private planes for people to fly. A group of Israeli Jews booked a plane to go to a football match in some country. After they booked the plane and these families were flying to the football match, one of the people on the flight realized that the night they’re taking off, they’re getting onto the plane, is the eve of Passover. He turned to the leasing company and said to the leasing company, do you mind to supply for the flight matzos and wine and maror and Haggados, so on the flight —
Audience Member: We could have a Seder.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: — we could have a Seder. The leasing company, who has a contract with the food company that does all their flights, is non-kosher food and it’s a simple thing. This leasing company turns to him and says deliver 12 packages or 25 packages and this food distributor does this in bulk. Well, now, you’re asking for a specialty. You can’t go to the food company, say matzos, wine, maror and Haggados. It meant that the leasing company has to go put this together. He’s an Orthodox Jew and he felt, under contract, he’s not obligated.
He didn’t want to do the wrong thing, because it’s about a Seder, but it’s on a flight, flying on Passover night. He went to Rabbi Zilberstein and said to him, help me with this. Rabbi Zilberstein turned to his older brother-in-law and said, what do I answer? The older brother-in-law said, I don’t want to take responsibility, go ask our father-in-law.
Although he was weak by then, he said I’m going to go ask him. He went and asked him. He laid out the question and Rabbi Elyashiv, his father-in-law, their father-in-law, turned around and said let them eat chazer, let them eat pork if they’re flying on Passover. That was his answer. This man stood up and repeated this in front of the whole crowd.
There are two things there. First of all, he realized that his older brother-in-law, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, struggled. He didn’t want to answer. He didn’t want to put his stamp either way on this. The father-in-law took responsibility and made a major statement. His statement was they’re flying on Passover, I don’t care about anything religious for them. This is an interesting dilemma.
Let me tell you a Chassidic story. Those that go to Israel, and we should all be going to Israel, you should make it — if you have the opportunity — the largest synagogue built in Israel belongs to a Chassidic community called Belz, the Rokeach family. Why do they have the largest synagogue in Israel? Let me tell you the story.
The original Rokeach, his name was Rabbi Sholom Rokeach. He was a disciple going all the way back to the Noam Elimelech. These are students of the Maggid. This is third-generation Chassidic movement. This man was a — he, with a friend of his, decided that they’re going to stay up a thousand nights and learn through the night. Catnap through the day, but be up through the night, when everybody else is sleeping, a thousand nights. He and his friend decided.
His friend conked out after 700 nights. He couldn’t. He said I can’t go further. On the thousandth night that this Sholom Rokeach stayed up he had a prophesy. Elijah came to him and learned with him the laws of the sanctuary, of the synagogue. When he woke up from his dream after learning the laws in his dream of a sanctuary, of a synagogue in his head, it became a message to him.
When he moved to the city of Belz and became the Chassidic master of Belz and led a Chassidic movement, he built the largest synagogue in Poland, in Belz. In middle of building this great synagogue in Belz, he ran out of money. Some of his students convinced him, you know, you have children from your followers that have made it well, they live in Warsaw, they’re not religious, but if you travel to Warsaw and they know that their parents’ rebbe that they remember from childhood is making the trip to Warsaw, they’ll support you. He was convinced. They left Belz and he travelled to Warsaw.
When he arrived in Warsaw, they took him to this villa, a beautiful villa. He enters through the gates of the villa and, as he’s walking to this mansion, along the way, there’s this beautiful garden with the gazebos along the side of the garden where people are sitting. As he walks by one of the gazebos, there’s this young man, not wearing a yarmulke, not religious at all, and eating non-kosher. As the Belzer Rebbe walks by, the original Belzer Rebbe walks by, he turns to him and says in Yiddish, es gezunterheit, eat in good health, with a big smile. Es gezunterheit.
Then he went into the mansion. They showed him to the office. He waited in the waiting room, and who comes walking through the waiting room to enter his office? The man who was sitting and eating non-kosher. Ow. He sat down across the Belzer Rebbe and the Belzer Rebbe told him that he’s building a synagogue in Belz and he would like him to support and he agreed to support. He asked him what’s the shortfall in the synagogue, the Belzer Rebbe told him what the shortfall is, and he sponsored it.
They left. In the carriage ride from Warsaw back to Belz, the Belzer Rebbe sat in the front seat, next to the carriage driver. In the back was the entourage, the five, six people, his gabba’im. The gabba’im shushked, this, like, this little shushkening. Why did the Belzer Rebbe say to him es gezunterheit? It was not kosher what he was eating. Some said, most probably he didn’t know who he was. Others said no, he knew who he was and he wanted to get money out of him, so he said es gezunterheit. All this type of shushkening.
The Belzer Rebbe turns around and says let me set the record straight. Number 1, I did not know who he was when I walked by. Number 2, I knew it was not kosher. Those that were arguing maybe he didn’t know it was not kosher, or those that were arguing that he knew who he was and he did it for financial reasons, he says, let me set everything straight. I knew it was not kosher and I did not know who he was.
Let me tell you why I said it. I want that although he’s not doing something right, he shouldn’t be fighting with God. Farvus darf men zich shluggen mit di Eibeshter, why should it be a fight? If I would walk by and ignore him, then he would say oh, because I eat non-kosher, God is against me, because look at this rabbi, he ignored me. I’d rather he doesn’t fight with God.
This is a beautiful take of a Chassidic master, to turn around and say I understand that this person’s relationship is complicated, but I’m not going to make it worse. I’m going to try to minimize the complications.
There’s a great story of Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev. Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev was a disciple of the Maggid. His age, he saw the Ba’al Shem Tov as well. He was a great, great Chassidic master, that actually was at the time of the Alter Rebbe, the third generation as well. He lived into his 80s. He crossed over three generations of the Chassidic movement. He was one of the greatest Chassidic masters. A lover of Jews.
One of the most beautiful stories they say is that he stood up Yom Kippur in his synagogue and told this story. What was the story? He’s telling a story before Ne’ilah. The end of Yom Kippur. He says I want to tell you what happened to me this morning.
I’m walking to shul and I see this man smoking and it happened to be that that Yom Kippur was on Shabbos. He looks at the man and he says, do you know that it’s Shabbos today? He says of course I know it’s Shabbos today. He says, do you know it’s Yom Kippur today? He says of course I know it’s Yom Kippur today. And he keeps on smoking, and he walks away from me.
Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev says how beautiful it is. He could have lied and said he doesn’t know it’s Yom Kippur and said, no, I didn’t realize. But look at a Jewish man, he says, he didn’t want to lie to God.
That’s called minimizing. That’s called saying that although I know it’s complicated the relationship, let me try to figure out how I find within this relationship something to grasp onto and to turn around and make this person understand that you can still identify it through the complications.
It’s this type of Chassidic way of thinking that dominated, I imagine — again, I’m saying something off record, I shouldn’t say it. I imagine that if this story of the airline would have been handed to the Rebbe, the Rebbe would have turned around and said, number 1, try to convince them not to fly on Yom Tov and explain to them the beauty of sitting down by a Seder properly and they’ll fly after Yom Tov. Then if it doesn’t work out, quietly, do what you have to do quietly. Don’t make an announcement. But why shouldn’t they eat the Seder? Try to give them whatever they want to cleave to Judaism, the best as possible, without public announcements.
It’s a different approach. It’s an approach where you turn around and say that you know what, within this great relationship with God, there’s a need to understand in the complication of the relationship, there’s beauty to be found. When you find that beauty, emphasize it. Okay.
I want to teach you a Talmud. It’s a Talmud in the Tractate Sanhedrin. Those that follow me online, it’s the sixth page, Side B, Vav, Amud Beis.
The Talmud goes into this great conversation about arbitration. Arbitrational law. Initially, the Talmud says, you shouldn’t do arbitration. Arbitration should not be done in Judaism because either right or wrong. Why are you arbitrating compromises?
Then the Talmud turns around and says, you know, that if you can get the case resolved before it hits the courtroom and before a judge gets his hand on it, you can arbitrate somehow or other that the two should come to an understanding. Arbitration is a good thing.
In the copy of the Talmud I showed you is that the Talmud says that you should know that who introduced arbitration is King David, because King David used two terms, that when he became king of the Land of Israel, he introduced righteousness and judgment. The Talmud says judgment is where a person gets judged right and wrong, and there’s no righteousness, it’s simply right and wrong. Righteousness is the concept of arbitration, where the judge has a way of arbitrating the case — not the judge, it’s arbitrated before it hits the courtroom.
The Talmud uses the example of Aaron and Moses. Moses was the judge, but before something came to Moses, who had to judge it? Aaron tried to work out peace treaties and he tried to figure out how to get the two people to somehow or other resolve their issue before it reaches Moses. Because once it reaches Moses, there’s no arbitration. Then he’s obligated to say what the law is and whatever the law is, is the law.
If the guy walks in and says that this guy stole from me $100, Moses can’t say let them do a compromise, give him 50 and go home. What do you mean give him 50 and go home? Either he stole from me 100 or he didn’t steal from me 100. Let’s get this right. I never said he stole from me 50. I’m telling you he stole from me 100. Why the compromise of giving me 50 is going to resolve the issue? It’s either I’m right or he’s right.
So once the judge gets his hand on it, the concept of arbitration is out the window. Before the judge got the hand on it, before it came to Moses, Aaron would try to figure out, how do I arbitrate?
That’s the Talmud. Then the Talmud turns around and says arbitration is a good thing.
Then the Talmud — turn the page with me, we’re going to work this through quickly — the Talmud turns around and tells seven stories. Little storylines. It’s almost like the Talmud’s saying to us — it’s not stories, it’s one-liners. The Talmud tells it in a very interesting way. What are the seven one-liners?
There was a certain man, the Talmud doesn’t name who he is, who went around and used to say, if a person hears about him something and it’s against him and he remains silent, you should know that 100 misfortunes would pass by as a result. So instead of blowing the thing out of whack, that you heard someone say something about you, now you go after that person and now you start — it’s going to —
Audience Member: Escalate.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: — it’s going to escalate. Talmud says if a person simply allows it to go by him, 100. Comes along Rabbi Shmuel and says to Rabbi Yehudah, I want to tell you something, it’s a nice saying, but actually it’s written in Proverbs. He quotes a verse in Proverbs, let’s not go into it, just note that he quotes a verse in Proverbs. From that verse in Proverbs you see this idea, allowing something that has been said about you, to be silent.
Story number 2. There was this man, again nameless, who went around saying that a thief can get away from his thievery for the first couple of times, but then ultimately he’s caught. You just can’t go on your entire life and not be caught. You’re going to be caught. That was his saying. Comes along Shmuel and says to Rabbi Yehudah, I want to tell you something. I know this is a beautiful saying from this man, but let me tell you something. There’s a verse. It’s a verse in Amos, one of the Prophets, that implies that you should know that a thief might not be caught on the first couple of times, but he will ultimately be caught.
Third saying. There was this man who went around saying that a person who’s of peace, they can be selling pig’s dung in front of him, he’ll be able to avoid it, because a man of peace stays with the peace and he can walk between, as we would say, between the drops of rain. Versus an evildoer. The first pit, he’ll figure out how to fall into it. Comes along Shmuel and says to Rabbi Yehudah, I know that this is a man who said this beautiful saying, but you should know in the Book of Proverbs, King Solomon already said it. He quotes him a verse from King Solomon.
Story number 4. There was this man who walked around saying — what did he say? He would say as follows, that a judgement on somebody poor was levied against him and it really hurt him, it emptied him out, they took away the garment he’s wearing, and he walks out of the court singing. Where he accepts the judgment and he’s not bitter by the fact that there was a judgment against him, because the judge said he was wrong, should be praised. Along comes Rabbi Shmuel once more and turns to Rabbi Yehuda and says, I know there’s a beautiful saying from this man, this faceless man, this nameless man, but I want to tell you something, it’s again, it’s a verse from the Torah. It’s in Exodus.
Story number 5, on top of Page 3. There was this man who went around saying that if a woman carries a basket on her head and she dozes off, she behaves irresponsibly, you should know it’s going to fall. If you’re careless, things happen. Turns Shmuel to Rabbi Yehuda and says, I know that there’s this man who had a saying, but you should know it’s already said in Kohelet. Ecclesiastes already said this idea that if you behave irresponsibly things will happen.
Story number 6. There was this man who walked around saying that you should know you might have a friend that you think is backing you, but one day you’ll turn around and realize that that friendship went sour. All of the sudden the person you thought is in your corner is not in your corner. Turned around Shmuel to Rav and says, I know this man has a saying, but I want to tell you something, it’s in Psalms. That’s story number 6.
Story number 7. There was this man who went around saying that if you have a true love for a person, then both of you can sleep on the width of a sword because you don’t even feel the lack of space when you love somebody. If you don’t love somebody, then you should know that you can have a bed that is huge, a king-sized bed, and there’s not sufficient room for the two of you on one bed. Turns around Rav Huna this time and says, I know there’s a man who walks around having a saying about a relationship that’s healthy, but he’s not original. It’s in Exodus. God says something very similar. Therefore, I know the man has this saying.
That’s the Talmud. Seven sayings right after the story of arbitration. That’s the Talmud in a nutshell. Okay. Let’s work this Talmud.
I get that arbitration, before it reaches a judge, there’s something to the arbitration. Let’s talk about it. Why is there something to arbitration? You’re telling the guy give $50 instead of the $100. It’s a nice thing, but it’s not right. That’s not the story what happened here. This person believes $100 was taken from him. You walk up and say listen, stop squabbling.
It’s worth the $50 loss, you’re saying? What’s the concept of arbitration? In what way does it have legal grounds over the rightness of judgment? To say oh, it’s a good thing to do. What’s good about it? What’s the legality to it? What roots does it have?
This is an interesting conversation, but the Talmud says it’s good. Then let’s ask the question about this. There was a guy. The Talmud doesn’t usually leave people faceless. Why doesn’t the Talmud — because usually the history of the person who’s saying it speaks volumes to what he’s saying. You get to understand — if you know this person’s personality and you realize this person’s history, all of the sudden you have the ability to understand why he would come out with such a verdict. Therefore, the Talmud would speak to you about who Hillel was, who Shammai was. You get to understand oh, these are certain personalities.
The Talmud tells you the history of Rabbi Akiva and therefore you get an understanding who Rabbi Akiva is and therefore you start understanding why his verdicts were certain ways. The Talmud would translate the character of the personality who was saying what was being said as a way of understanding what’s being said.
All of the sudden, for seven stories in a row, the Talmud decides there was a person, won’t tell me who the guy is. There was a person. By the way, I’m not saying — I imagine that whoever, there was this person, had to have some kind of respect, because look at the Talmud, it takes up time to try to say that what he said was written about.
If it was some Moe, Joe, Larry (inaudible 00:32:00) and saying something, the Talmud is not just going to say oh, let’s spend time on somebody who’s walking around telling stories. They didn’t look at the local paper, at the cartoons, and said let’s figure out from the cartoons where’s the Talmudic — where’s the Torah backing that cartoon. They didn’t do that. Whoever this person was, meant something to them. They didn’t want to mention his name.
Rabbi Shmuel found it important to say I want to tell you something, there’s something to this person. For two seconds, work this together with me. Turn to Page 4.
I want to introduce you to a personality that lived in a primitive time. He lived in the early 1800s, 1823, 1824, until 1900. His name was Rabbi Tzadok. He was a Kohen. They called him Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen. He lived in the city of Lublin, in Poland.
In the city of Lublin, there was a great Chassidic master that he became a student of. His name was Rabbi Leibel Eiger. Rabbi Leibel Eiger was the grandson of one of the great Talmudic scholars in the Lithuanian world that lived right after the Vilna Gaon. His name was Rabbi Akiva Eiger and he lived in the city of Eiger. He was the chief rabbi of a city called Posen. He was a scholar of epic proportions. His grandson became a Chassidic master, because as a young man he got attracted to Rabbi Mendele of Kotzk, the great Kotzker Rebbe, and the Kotzker Rebbe turned him onto the Chassidic world.
By the way, just to point this out, the son of Rabbi Akiva Eiger, his name was Rabbi Shimon Eiger. Rabbi Shimon Eiger spent a major portion of his time to make sure that his father wouldn’t get close to the Chassidic movement. God has a sense of humor. He took his son, Leibel, and made him a Chassidic master. When he was learning in Kotzk, the grandfather was influenced by his son to travel to Kotzk to try to convince his grandson to get out of the movement.
There are whole storylines how this grandson impressed upon his grandfather, that the grandfather went back to Posen and when his son, Rabbi Shimon, spoke to him about did you convince Leibel to come home, he says, he’s just fine, leave him alone.
This man, Rabbi Leibel Eiger, moved to Lublin and became a Chassidic master. When he passed away, the one that inherited his position is Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen. He was a leader from the mid-40s to the year 1900. He was one of the — he was a great Chassidic master. He was childless, so there was no — from this man’s — there was no following after he passed on.
He wrote extensively, beautifully. He wrote seven or eight different books. I want to show you what he does about there was this man. I’m going to show it to you out of three different books of his. If you go to Page 4 and go to B, skip the A on top, go to B.
I know it’s all in Hebrew, they have yet to make these books in English, so forgive me. I numbered the books. Number 1 is a book called Tzidkas HaTzadik, number 2 is a book of his called Poked Akarim, number 3 is a book called Pri Tzadik. In all three of these books, he focuses on ‘there was this man. He focuses on understanding the whole story about this man. I’m going to just — if you want to follow in Hebrew, I highlighted. I’m going to read you these quick translations.
He starts out — let’s start with one from Tzidkas HaTzadik. This is Chapter 53. Rabbi Tzadok of Lublin, his last name was Rabinowitz, Rabbi Tzadok writes as follows. “Dibur shechol hamerugal b’fi adam,” the language of people that people are used to saying, “hu divrei Torah mamash,” you should know, consider it as Torah words. “Afilu eitzel ish hahamoni miYisrael,” even the simplest person in the Jewish community, don’t underestimate his conversational speech.
Go down further in the paragraph, what I highlighted. He says that’s what the Talmud says there was a man that had a saying, because the Talmud wants to bring out that even the non-spiritual words in the Jewish community is holy. Why? Next highlighting. Why?
“Ki kol nefesh Yisrael,” for every Jewish soul, “yesh lo achiza b’divrei Torah miyuchedes,” has his own connection to Torah words. Each one of us has a letter in the Torah. Each one of us has a part of the Torah that’s ours. Therefore, now this walking letter in the Torah is speaking about Bob Kraft. Makes no difference. It’s this person that has a letter in the Torah that’s his, that’s speaking. Therefore, on a certain level, he says, that is holy.
Listen to this. From his perspective, that’s why, A, the Talmud goes to mention a person that’s faceless. Because it’s not about the uniqueness of this great scholar, it’s every single Jew.
Audience Member: A regular mentsch.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: A regular person. If I mentioned who he is as a scholar, then you’re going to say oh, he said it because who he is. No. There was a man. Who’s the man? Anybody. Why could it be anybody? Because every single soul of a Jew is attached to the Torah. Now this soul is speaking the most secular idea, there’s a part of it that’s holy.
Let me move to his writing in Poked Akarim, that’s 2, on the left-hand side. He turns around and says that in Pirkei Avot, in Ethics of our Fathers, it says you should learn from every person. Right? “Mikol adam.” “Eizeh hu chacham,” who’s a wise man, “Halomed mikol adam,” who learns from every person. Why? Why is a wise man who learns from every person?
He goes right back to this. He says that that’s the explanation. Because every person has a part of him, a letter of the Torah in him, embedded in him. He has a connection to the Torah. Although now he doesn’t seem to be expressing it, but that’s who he is. You might not see it, but that’s who he is and therefore listen to what he says.
He goes right back and quotes our Talmud. That’s why the Talmud in Tractate of Sanhedrin says there was a man who went around saying. Then he adds an interesting line.
He says, you should know, the man who went around saying might not even realize that he’s connected to Torah. He doesn’t realize that what he said has to it some sacredness. That’s why the Talmud turns around and says, Rav Shmuel comes and says, you should know, this is connected to the Torah this way. This is connected to the Torah that way. Although the man when he said it doesn’t even realize how he’s connected, the Talmud wants you to understand that you should know he’s connected.
In his brilliant way, how Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen views this whole Talmud, is a simple thing. The truth is that every one of us is connected to God. Sometimes it’s revealed and sometimes it’s concealed. We’re connected to the Torah. Sometimes it’s revealed, sometimes it’s concealed. Shmuel, it was revealed. He studied, he learned, he was aware, he was knowledgeable. The man who walked around and had a saying, he didn’t see, but it’s there. That connection with the Torah is there. Therefore, you have to listen and you have to understand.
Let’s work backwards. Let’s go back to the story of arbitration. Arbitration, you’re not going into the obvious part of Torah which is the Law Code to decide the case. What are you doing here? B the way, Rabbi Soloveitchik, of blessed memory, in that lecture of ’73, says like this. A little bit different to Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen, but this is how he introduces to explain arbitration. He says, I want to tell you something. He doesn’t use Tzadok HaKohen’s sources, he comes up with his own source.
He says, there’s a Talmud that says that a person before he’s born has learned the entire Torah in his mother’s womb. Then you get a little shnaid on the nose over here, right before you leave, and that’s when the angel makes you forget, but it’s been already engraved in your psyche.
Audience Member: DNA.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: The DNA. Therefore, Rabbi Soloveitchik of blessed memory, says, you want to know why arbitration is real? Because, although in the revealed part of the Torah, you’re not going there, but that human part that you’re going to express your feelings and try and make these two people — there’s holiness to that and it has its own source of Torah which is not revealed.
In the revealed part of Torah, it’s right and wrong. This is a different level of Torah revelation. That’s Rabbi Soloveitchik.
I want to show you that before he said it, there was a great rabbi that lived in Israel, his name was Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop. He was a disciple of Rabbi Kook. He passed away in 1951. He lived in Israel his entire life, 1882 to 1951. He wrote a sefer called Mei Marom.
He goes down the same path, but a little bit different. It’s interesting because they all come back to the same root. What’s the same root? That we’ve got to find a source to why this man had a saying. There was a saying, but you’ve got to find a source to why arbitration works. It just can’t be that there’s no Torah source to it.
Rabbi Soloveitchik wants to say that you can have a deep relationship with Torah that’s not even in the revealed part of Torah, that comes out subconsciously in this human touch of arbitration.
This man, Rabbi Charlop, turns around and says, I want to tell you something. It’s very possible that in this arbitration case, you might have overspent in a previous case on them that is long forgotten, or it’s the grandfather that owed a grandfather that now is being resolved.
Audience Member: Finally.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: — is being resolved in this case with this arbitrational decision. And so, in the revealed Torah sense, you could only look at what’s happening, but if you really dig deeper, there is repayment that goes back in generations. The arbitrational decision is going into that level of the psyche of the person where he carries the weight of past history.
That’s what his explanation is and therefore that’s justified. That’s justified, he says. You could find grounds that I’m paying up a debt of my ancestors.
They all work this angle. What’s the angle? Although there was a man who walked around saying, although there’s an arbitrator who says I’m not just looking at what the revealed Torah tells me to do, I’m going to do this human touch, where I’m going to walk in and say, Yankel, Moshe, why are you fighting, let’s figure out an in-between round here.
You should know, there’s a part of holiness, there’s a Torah aspect embedded in me, that’s not revealed. If you somehow or other lean on it, you’re strong enough, it comes out. The arbitrator brings it out in the arbitrational decision.
There was a man who walked around and had a saying and then Shmuel turned around and says, if you dig deep enough, although this man doesn’t realize what he’s saying, it has roots in the Torah. The reason why it has roots in the Torah because any Jew has roots in the Torah. That is the running theme of interpreting this Talmud.
Can I walk back for two seconds to the Rebbe? Let’s work this Talmud from the Rebbe’s perspective. You have a Jew who says, I have no relationship, I have a compliacted relationship with the Torah, I have a complicated relationship with God, but you know what, I have a human touch, where I feel for someone. In that human touch I have an understanding. There was a man who walked around and talked about his human touch for another person, how he was humble for another person, how he accepted another person’s judgment. All these human touches.
The Talmud turns around and says, don’t mess with him. This human touch is real. Then comes Shmuel and says, by the way, I know that there was a man who said this, but you should know that ultimately, he can grow in his relationship and when he grows in the relationship, he will see that not only is it coming from a human touch, there’s sources in the Torah as well because there’s another chain. What’s the other link in the chain? The Torah. But the link of the human touch is real, even though at that moment this human touch is saying I don’t know of my relationship with the Torah, I don’t know my relationship with God.
Therefore, this man walks around saying sayings that has no connection to God, that has no connection to a verse in the Torah, but the Talmud turns around and says I want to quote it.
Audience Member: Wow.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: I don’t want to dispose of that. I want to tell the world that — like the Rebbe said in his inauguration address — that you should know that when a person stands up and says my love for another person is independent to a degree at this point in my life, because I don’t have a complete relationship with God, I don’t have a complete relationship with the Torah, the Rebbe says, don’t throw it away. There’s a uniqueness to that human touch and it’s real, developed.
That’s exactly what the Talmud’s doing. From the Rebbe’s perspective, you don’t have to go back to the concept of a relationship with Torah. There’s a uniqueness in one’s Jew’s relationship with another person.
By the way, that’s the story of the arbitration. What’s the story of the arbitration? The arbitrator walks over to both of them and says, listen, we’re not going to talk law, we’re going to about it as human beings. How would you feel about it? What would be the best way that we all walk out of this room and we feel good about it? You know what that is? Let’s come to an understanding. No one gets 100 per cent and no one gets nothing, but we’re able to look at each other after the whole thing is over. Versus, when one is right and one is wrong, that relationship could be ruined.
It’s the human touch which, to the Rebbe, he was willing to stand up at the inaugural address and say, my dear friends, when a person stands up and says I love another human being, that has a value. That has total validation.
When you sit and look at this Talmud, you don’t have to run and try to figure out subconscious relationships with the Torah. You don’t have to go there. Just listen to the Rebbe’s voice, that there’s a link in the chain that’s very unique and has its own validation.
I want to tell you a story before I let you go. I read it recently. I have to find it, but I read it recently. The second of the great Chassidic masters in the dynasty of the Ger community, Gur, of Polish community. The Gerrer Rebbe today is the seventh Gerrer Rebbe today. He is the seventh in the chain. Rabbi Yankel Alter, his last name is Alter.
The second one was Rabbi Yehuda miGer. He was known as the Sfat Emet. Rabbi Yehudah Leib of Ger. He was the head of the school. He was a rosh yeshiva in Ger before he became the rebbe. He was teaching a Talmud in the Tractate of Baba Batra. The Talmud goes like this.
Two people walking in a forest, lost, knowing that to get to civilization will take days. There’s one bottle of water that one of them owns. That one bottle of water would be sufficient for one person to survive. Should he split the bottle of water in half and they both die? He’s not playing judgment, but that way he’s, like, leaving it up to God? Or does he say, no, I’ll drink the bottle of water, I survive, I’m sorry, it was my water, I’m not sharing.
The first opinion in the Talmud is, he should share. Comes along Rabbi Akiva and says, why is he sharing? Why should he? It’s his water. Sharing it, they’re both going to die. He should drink it. That’s the end of the Talmud.
The Sfat Emet, the second Gerrer Rebbe, teaching a class of students, turns around and says, I want to ask you a question. The Talmud’s scenario is made up of two people. What happens if there’s three people? Two of them, if they don’t get any water, they’re going to die. The third guy is just fine. He’s not dehydrated in any way. He’s doing just fine and he has the bottle of water. So now, for him to drink it, there’s no purpose. Why should he drink it? He’s okay. If he gives it to one of the two, then the other one dies. If he gives it to both, they both die. What does he do?
He asked this question. You can’t answer the Talmud’s answer drink it. I don’t have a problem. I’m okay. I’m not dehydrated. The owner is not dehydrated. You can’t say — why should he drink it?
What the Sfat Emet was doing was getting the Talmud’s answer removed and going back to the original question, where you have two people, (inaudible 00:53:07), and now what do we do? Does he throw it up in the air and let the two of them fight? What does he do?
As he asked the class the question, one student stood up and lifted up his arm. He said I have the answer. Let the scholar be the one to drink the water. If there’s a scholar amongst the two, whoever is greater for the Jewish community, let him drink the water. This is what a student answered.
The Sfat Emet listened to the answered and was dumbfounded. He said I didn’t respond, because he was amazed that someone said that. Why was he amazed? If you analyze — what was wrong with what the student answered?
Go through the Talmud and you’ll read over and over in the Talmud about scholars. You should marry a scholar. A scholar, a scholar, a scholar. The student answered based on what’s in his head about scholars and therefore said, listen, this guy seems to have a greater priority.
Comes the Sfat Emet and says no, it’s not only about the link of Torah. These are two human —
Audience Member: Beings.
Rabbi Alter Bukiet: — beings, that that is in the relationship with God as well. In that relationship, how do you even equate one more important than the other? He had to sit there and teach the child, because that child was only evaluating the relationship with God through Torah study and this one was greater than the other. That link of Torah played a greater role to that child than any other link.
Comes along the Sfat Emet and says no, don’t do that. There’s another entire link, and that’s what the Rebbe was talking about. The Rebbe turned around and said I want to tell you about this link, that even though to a certain degree in its right now revealed stage, the person says, I don’t have the other two links, it’s a link that’s real and don’t let go of it.
The love for another Jew has a right to stand in its own merit, independent of finding a revealed way of how it’s connected to the Torah or to God. That’s exactly what the Talmud did. There was a man that walked.
Have a good day, everybody.
Audience Member: What’s the answer?
(END RECORDING – 00:55:49)
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I, Libby Meisels, as the Official Transcriber, hereby certify that the attached transcript labeled: THE HUMAN VOICE was held as herein appears and that this is the original transcript thereof and that the statements that appear in this transcript were transcribed by me to the best of my ability.
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